1. Can the Cavaliers combat Utah’s bench duo of Alec Burks (13.7 PPG) and Enes Kanter (12 PPG)?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: I think so. Without Waiters and Miles on the wing, I’d say that Burks will be the harder of the two to contain. Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova have taken over the lion’s share of minutes at the two-guard spot and they won’t be mistaken for plus defenders any time soon. As for Kanter, the Cavaliers should be able to match up fairly well with him. Spencer Hawes and Tyler Zeller are solid enough to contain him for the most part.
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Burks is playing with a ton of confidence and I think he’s licking his chops at this matchup. Dellavedova is a hard-nosed player but he doesn’t have the athleticism or quickness to stay in front of Burks. The third-year player, who’s listed at 6’6” has been a force getting to the foul line this season and I think he will attack the Cavaliers weak interior defense as much as possible. Kanter is a bully inside but has been more effective in a starting role because he gets more opportunties. Still, he is stronger and tougher than any of Cleveland’s big men, so he could cause problems if he can find his rhythm and stay out of foul trouble. However, I think stopping Burks will be the tougher challenge tonight for the Cavs espeically without Miles.
Amar, Manager of SLCDunk.com: If C.J. Miles was healthy, yes, no doubt. The word on the street is that you guys could be without Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Carrick Felix tonight. That means that Alec Burks, may have less athletic comp matching up against him off the bench. Which mean, well, he may be asked to score a lot. In his last 15 games he’s averaging 16.1 ppg, going to the line 6.7 times a game, and has a PPS value of 1.43. That’s up from his regular season averages of 13.7 PPG, going to the line 4.8 times a game, and a PPS value of only 1.29. (Frame of reference, league average over the last 20+ years is 1.21) Burks has really turned it on, and in his last five games he’s playing like an All-Star snub with 17.2 PPG, and getting to the line 7.4 times a game. If he’s having a “good night” he may be tough to handle as he’s gone for 20+ points a number of times in the last 15 games.
Kanter is harder to predict, but he seems to do better when he is given oppurtunities to bang. Against Tristan, Spencer, Tyler, and perhaps even Anthony he may just get his chance. Utah’s bench is basically just Burks and Kanter, so in theory the Cavs bench should be able to handle them; however, injuries make it that much more difficult. It’ll be tough but I expect Alonzo Gee to have a solid game. That’s a place to start from.
2. Both Utah and Cleveland are in no man’s land with the playoffs a long shot for Cleveland, while Utah has been rebuilding since the offseason. Yet both are continually falling further out of contention for a top draft selection. Which franchise needs a high draft pick more?
CM: The answer here is that the Utah Jazz need a top pick more than the Cavaliers. Although it would be really nice if the Cavaliers nabbed a Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid in the upcooming NBA Draft, they have their star player (Kyrie Irving) and a few decent pieces around him. And if they so choose, they have enough assetts to look for another star (or close to it) in the trade market. The Jazz, on the other hand, have a few nice building blocks but no franchise talent to build around. If either of these teams needs a shot in the arm via the draft, it’s the Jazz. And how great would it be if they netted Jabari Parker this June?
MA: I believe Utah has the more talented overall roster. They have numerous young players with potential to grow including Burks, Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke. Neither of those guys are as talented as Kyrie Irving however, and since the Jazz play in the stacked Western Conference, I’m going to reluctantly say they need a top pick more than Cleveland. Still, the Cavs overall roster talent is depleted especially if Anthony Bennett fails to take a giant step forward next season. They also have to convince Irving, a restricted free agent after next season, to sign long term. Irving likely will be looking to see if a talented roster is in place and see if they are heading in the right direction before he signs, and a top pick in this year’s talent laden draft would certainly help their case.
A: Well, in all fairness, the Cavs have had the number one pick in the draft three times in recent memory, and twice in the last three seasons. And you guys play in the Eastern Conference. The Jazz not only need it more (we don’t have an All-Star, you have one in Kyrie Irving), but we’ve never had a number one draft pick ever in our 40 year history. We need it more.
3. What did beating the Thunder teach us about the Cavaliers?
CM: If we should take anything away from this game, we should realize that maybe the Cavaliers are finally ready to maximize their talent and make a late push toward the postseason. Coming off a loss at home with no time to rest (and against one of the NBA’s best teams, to boot) this was set up for the Cavaliers to lose big. But they responded, recieved solid production from just about everyone who saw meaningful time. Moving forward, if the Cavaliers can build off this victory, he might look at this game as the moment Cleveland finally somewhat figured themselves out.
MA: It reminded me that anybody can beat anybody on any given night. The odds were completely stacked against the Cavs but they persevered for arguably their best win of the season. Spencer Hawes has opened up the offense with his ability to space the floor, pass and shoot the three. I don’t think they win the game without him on the floor. The eighth seed in the Eastern Conference is there for the taking if the Cavaliers can find consistency. Atlanta is injury riddled and sinking fast having lost 9-of-10 while Detroit continues to stink. If Cleveland can somehow survive its brutal mid-March six-game stretch against five Western playoff teams and Miami, they’ll have a chance to sneak into the playoffs.
A: For a few moments there it looked like I was watching Allen Iverson and Eric Snow playing, not Kyrie Irving and Jarret Jack. I was impressed with what the Cavaliers did in that game and I think the NBA at-large learned that the Cavs are a team that can come into your house and beat you. Usually road teams don’t shoot 96 percent from the free throw line in a game, but Cleveland did. And while they did turn the ball over 16 times, they only fouled 14 times total in that game. OKC went to the line, at home, only 17 times all game. When Cleveland plays mistake free basketball they can be trouble. And this is a very positive thing as it shows that the team has great discipline and while it doesn’t happen every game, it’s something that is plausible and something to aim for every game.